Dell reportedly mulling mobile-phone launch

By John Letzing, MarketWatch
Last update: 9:48 p.m. EST Jan. 29, 2009
Comments: 24
SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) — Embattled personal-computer maker Dell Inc. may release a mobile phone as soon as next month, according to a news report late Thursday.
The online edition of The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, reported that Dell (DELL:
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DELL 9.50, -0.45, -4.5%) has had engineers working on prototypes based on mobile software from both Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp.
Dell plans to focus on high-end smart-phones, including one with a touch-screen similar to Apple Inc.’s (AAPL:
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AAPL 90.13, -2.78, -3.0%) iPhone, according to the report.
However, the Round Rock, Tex.-based company hasn’t finalized plans and may yet abandon the effort, according to the report.
Dell has explored a number of new products since founder Michael Dell returned as chief executive in 2007. The company scrapped plans last summer to sell a digital music player that could connect wirelessly to the Internet, according to the report.
Dell also joined other technology giants including Google (GOOG:
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GOOG 338.53, -4.79, -1.4%) and Microsoft (MSFT:
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MSFT 17.10, -0.48, -2.7%) in lobbying the Federal Communications Commission last year to open up unused wireless spectrum to unlicensed devices — with an eye toward developing related wireless products that wouldn’t have to be vetted by the country’s dominant cell-phone carriers.
The FCC in November approved the unlicensed use of the so-called “white spaces” spectrum, which should become possible following the digital television transition in February. See related story on the approval of ‘white spaces’ use.
Dell’s possible entry into the mobile device market comes as it continues to lose PC market share.
The company said Thursday its fourth-quarter earnings would be impacted by almost $300 million in restructuring and stock options expenses, helping send its shares more than 8% lower to close at $9.95.
John Letzing is a MarketWatch reporter based in San Francisco.
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